It Looks Like Firefighters Saved Mt. Wilson Observatory

Every year, the Pacific Northwest and California experience “wildfire season,” a period where heat and low humidity combine, leading to an increased risk of fires. This year has been particularly bad and in California alone, wildfires have destroyed over two million acres of land, forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes, and threatened many historic institutions and landmarks.

One of them is the Mount Wilson Observatory that sits atop Mount Wilson in the San Gabriel Mountains overlooking Pasadena (northeast of LA). This famous observatory is home to several telescopes that were, for a time, the largest of their kind in the world. And thanks to the heroic efforts of firefighters, it looks as though the Mt. Wilson Observatory is now safe amid a particularly bad wildfire season.

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The SpaceX Starship Could be Making its Biggest Hop Yet (and a Belly-Flop) Next Month!

SpaceX is getting closer to the day when it will be able to make good on its promise of conducting regular missions to orbit, the Moon, and to Mars. At the heart of all this is the progress they are making with their Starship and Super Heavy launch system. In recent weeks, Musk’s commercial space company conducted two successful 150 m (500 ft) hop tests with the SN5 and SN6 prototypes at the Boca Chica launch facility in southern Texas.

Based on the latest announcements to come out of SpaceX, it appears that this recent string of successes has emboldened Musk and his company. Previously, Musk indicated that he was planning on making several more small hop tests and that the SN8 would attempt a 20 km (12 mi) flight sometime next year. More recent indications, however, suggest that Musk wants to conduct this high-altitude test before the end of October.

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An Update on the Damage to the Arecibo Observatory

On Aug. 10th, a little over a month ago, the iconic Arecibo Observatory suffered serious damage when an auxiliary cable broke and struck the reflector dish. This cable struck the observatory’s Gregorian Dome on its way down and twisted an access platform before landing on the reflecting dish itself. The impact created a gash over 30 meters (100 feet) in length and forced the observatory to shut down until repairs could be made.

Since then, teams have been busy working to stabilize the structure and determine the cause. These teams are made up of technicians from the observatory and the University of Central Florida (UCF), which manages the facility for the National Science Foundation (NSF). For the past few weeks, they have been meeting with experts from various fields and laying the groundwork for an investigation and a rigorous repair schedule.

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SpaceX’s Starship Prototype Nails Another Hop Test! Bring on Orbital Flights!

SpaceX has done it again! Earlier today (Thurs. Sept. 3rd), the company completed a second hop test with a Starship prototype. This time, it was the sixth iteration (SN6) that successfully made the 150-meter (~500 foot) flight at their launch facility near Boca Chica, Texas. This latest test has further validated the Starship design and the Raptor engine, two systems which Musk hopes will someday take humans to the Moon, to Mars, and beyond!

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SpaceX is Going to Hop Starship Again This Weekend

With a first successful hop test under their belts using a full-scale prototype, SpaceX is pressing ahead with the testing of the Starship. Tomorrow (on Sunday, August 30th), SpaceX will be attempting to make a second 150 meter (500 ft) hop test, this time with their sixth Starship prototype (SN6). It’s all part of a very busy weekend for SpaceX, with no less than three launches planned.

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Microbes Were Dormant for Over 100 Million Years, But They Were Able to Spring Back to Life

At the bottom of the ocean in the South Pacific Gyre, there’s a sediment layer that is among the most nutrient-starved environments on Earth. Because of conditions in that area, there’s almost no “marine snow”—the shower of organic debris common in the ocean—that falls to the ocean floor. Without all that organic debris falling to the floor, there’s a severe lack of nutrients there, and that makes this one of the least hospitable places on Earth.

A team of researchers took sediment samples from that area, and extracted 101.5 million year old microbes. When they “fed” those microbes, they sprang back to life.

The results are expanding our knowledge of microbial life and how long it can be dormant when conditions force it to be.

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Astronomers Do the Math to Figure Out Exactly When Johannes Vermeer Painted this, More than 350 Years Ago

Most of us will be forgotten only a generation or two after we pass. But some few of us will be remembered: great scientists, leaders, or generals, for example. But we can add history’s great artists to that list, and one in particular: Johannes Vermeer.

Vermeer was largely ignored during the two centures that followed his death, and died as other painters often did: penniless. But as more time has passed, the Dutch Baroque painter has grown in reputation, as historians increasingly recognize him as a master.

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Will We See a Starship Test This Week?

As we speak, engineers at SpaceX’s Boca Chica test facility are busy getting the fifth Starship prototype (SN5) ready. Having recently passed the crucial cryogenic load test, and with the installation of its SN27 Raptor engine, the ground crews are now gearing up for a static fire test. Assuming the SN5 doesn’t explode in a massive fireball (as the SN4 did), it will be ready to make the first hop test of a full-scale Starship prototype.

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Due to Weather Delay, NASA & SpaceX Push Historic Launch to Saturday

On Wednesday, May 27th, NASA and SpaceX geared up for what was sure to be a historic event! After years of hard work, the Crew Dragon capsule developed through NASA’s Commercial Crew Program would dock with the ISS for the first time. This launch would effectively restore domestic-launch capability to the United States, something it lost in 2011 with the retiring of the Space Shuttle. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t get the memo!

Less than 15 minutes before the Crew Dragon was to launch atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, mission controllers scrubbed the flight because the weather was not clearing up. As a result, NASA and SpaceX pushed the launch of the Crew Dragon to their two backup launch opportunities, both of which will be happening this weekend.

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